New testimony given to the Israel Police about five IDF soldiers who allegedly beat two Palestinians was leaked to the media on Tuesday.
“Four soldiers beat me with their hands, legs, and weapons,” one of the Palestinians said, according to a Yediot Aharonot report. “One of the soldiers stepped on my leg. I took many punches to the face. I couldn’t keep track. Also to my chest. They beat me in the knee with the barrel of their gun and with the butt of the gun on my knees, thighs, and groin.”
The report – which the newspaper said was based on 300 pages of testimony – followed an indictment last week against the five soldiers, and mostly supported the prosecution, while it portrayed the soldiers in a damning light.
This leak came only days after smaller selective leaks to the media about the January 8 incident supported the soldiers’ legal defenses.
The five soldiers, who serve in the ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion, were arrested on January 10. Their detention has been extended until February 19, pending IDF court-recommended talks to reach a plea deal.
Plea deal negotiations are scheduled to begin on Thursday.
According to the indictment, the five soldiers beat the two detainees with their fists and hard objects, while the two men were handcuffed and blindfolded, leaving the Palestinians severely injured.
The two men, a father and a son, were detained on suspicion of helping Asam Barghouti evade authorities. Barghouti was the terrorist responsible for the attack at the Givat Assaf West Bank outpost, in which two IDF soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion were killed, and another soldier and female civilian were wounded. The father and son are still in custody, but have not yet been charged.
According to the indictment, the defendants filmed themselves while they beat the Palestinians on all parts of their bodies.
The new Yediot statements painted a more detailed picture, with the two Palestinians saying the soldiers also verbally abused them.
The son claimed the soldiers asked him to say, “In blood and soul we will redeem Palestine,” and told him to watch how they beat his father. “Every time they hit my father, they asked me, ‘Everything OK?’ They also cursed at me in Arabic. When they removed my blindfold and asked me to watch how my father took the beating, they told me, ‘Look at your father, he deserves to take some hits.’”
The son testified that the two men were unable to defend themselves in any way. “I couldn’t fight back at all, and no one in the vehicle tried to stop the abuse. When they finished beating us, they danced.”
The father testified that he and his son were interrogated in a neighbor’s house before being brought to the vehicle. The father said that after he was beaten, he was bleeding heavily from his nose, but was given no treatment, and eventually lost consciousness.
The indictment confirms that in a video of the incident, cries of joy can be heard from the soldiers as the Palestinians are beaten and calling for help.
According to the Yediot report, the soldiers told police that a storm of emotions they were feeling caused them to hit and kick the two men all over their bodies, pull their hair, curse at them, and take the son’s blindfold off so he could see his father being beaten.
One of the soldiers testified that the abuse was done because of the loss of two of their fellow soldiers in terrorist attacks. “As one of those who buried one of the soldiers himself, the pain was deep. To see their two beds empty, to guard the bus stop where they were killed, I don’t think that someone can stay whole with themselves. I believe that this won’t happen again. I fell. I stumbled. It happens.”
The various testimonies from the soldiers often contradicted each other. One of the commanders claimed he didn’t see or hear anything that would raise suspicion, while one soldier claimed the commanders tried to stop them.
A short time after the incident, two of the soldiers reportedly tried to match up their stories and lie to investigators, until they saw the video that was taken in their vehicle.
These two soldiers have also been indicted for obstruction of justice, corroborated by evidence of WhatsApp messages between two of the other soldiers about attempts of the first two to coordinate their narratives.
The soldier who captured the video said he recorded the video in an effort to shame the others into stopping. He dedicated the video to their company’s sergeant-major during training so “he would see what horrible soldiers he raised.”
The father and son were admitted to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem with broken ribs and noses. Their condition was bad enough that the Border Guard officers who were supposed to take them from the Netzah Yehuda soldiers to where they would be interrogated, refused to do so.